Published: 06:00, 19 July 2021
| Updated: 15:23, 19 July 2021
A year late and set to be like an Olympic Games like no other, athletes around the world are preparing to put their best foot forwards for the Tokyo games when they kick off on Friday.
More than 11,000 competitors are due to take part in the 32nd Olympiad in the Japanese capital but no fans will be cheering them on.
The country has declared a state of emergency in response to rising coronavirus cases and spectators have been banned.
But the Games will go on and among those 11,000 athletes are 12 from Kent hoping to achieve their lifetime ambition of picking up an Olympic title.
We have a range of sports and events to keep an eye out on for some of the county's hopefuls from modern pentathlon to rowing and weightlifting.
But there's also some of the fascinating links to past games hosted in the UK and some of the stories of Kent's athletes who pulled on the precious GB jersey.
Here's KentOnline's countdown to the Games, starting with our athletes at Tokyo:
Cheavon Clarke, Men's Heavyweight, Boxing, Gravesend
One of Britain's major hopefuls for a medal, Gravesend boxer Cheavon Clarke is going to be confident of a podium finish in Tokyo.
The 30-year-old former HGV driver previously represented Jamaica at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and formed a bond with the greatest sprinter of all time Usain Bolt over games of Call of Duty.
He switched to Team GB in 2017 and won silver at the European Championships that year before taking bronze at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in 2018.
Clarke trains at the Gravesham Amateur Boxing Club and will be hoping to go two steps further from his two bronze medals at the Commonwealths and European championships.
Emily Craig, Lightweight Women's Double Sculls, Rowing, Pembury
Pembury-born Emily Craig is making her Olympic debut in Tokyo and is looking to build on the full set of World Championship medals she's already picked up so far.
Her first medal in the lightweight women’s quadruple sculls at the 2015 World Championships was silver before going one better the following year.
Craig, 28, now based just over the East Sussex border at Mark Cross, near Tunbridge Wells and Crowborough, took world bronze in 2019 with Imogen Grant in the lightweight double.
The pair will row together again in Japan.
Adam Gemili, 200m and 4x100m relay, Athletics, Dartford
Sprinter Adam Gemili will appear at his third Olympics and take to the track in Tokyo in the 200m and 4x100m relay team.
The Dartford schoolboy is the first British athlete to record a sub-10 second time in the 100m and under 20 seconds in the 200m.
His best finish at the Olympics is 4th in the 200m in Rio in 2016. He reached the semi-finals at London in the 100m in 2012.
The 27-year-old has won a host of medals across other competitions including two European Championship golds in the 4x100m relay in 2014 and 2015 and at the World Championships in 2017.
Gemili's best individual performance came at the 2014 Commonwealth games in Glasgow where he won silver in the 100m. He also took silver in the Europeans in the same event in 2011.
The sprinter carries out many charity and school events in the Dartford and Gravesend areas.
He opened the new running track at Dartford Grammar School – where he attended – in 2017 and has a building named after him at Wentworth Primary School in Gravesend.
Grace Balsdon, Hockey, Canterbury
Canterbury hockey player Grace Balsdon has represented Great Britain 40 times and has 39 caps for England.
The 28-year-old defender made her international debut aged 20 against the USA in San Diego and currently plays for Hampstead and Westminster Hockey Club having previously represented Canterbury.
Balsdon won bronze at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018 for England and played for her country at the World Cup the same year.
She will hoping to pose a danger to defences from penalty corners and is a livewire across the pitch.
Emily Muskett, Women's 76kg, Weightlifting, Farnborough
Reigning Commonwealth champion in the 75kg category at the Gold Coast in 2018, Emily Muskett is bidding to make the step up in the Olympics in Tokyo.
The 31-year-old from Farnborough near Bromley also took gold in the European Championships 71kg division in Moscow in April so will be coming into her first Olympics with confidence and form.
She has competed in four world championships, three Commonwealth Games and five European Championships during her career since 2010.
Muskett will be looking to fire her way on to the podium in Japan after taking bronze at the World Championships in Thailand in 2019.
Her gold at the Europeans earlier this year made her the first British woman to win in 26 years.
She was only selected to head to Tokyo earlier this month and joins the four-women team.
Giarnni Regini-Moran, Artistic Gymnastics, Gravesend
Gravesend-based Giarnni Regini-Moran has overcome horrific injuries suffered at the Olympic trials for the 2016 Rio games.
While working on a routine, the 22-year-old fell and snapped his posterior cruciate ligament, his medial collateral ligament, tore his hamstring and fractured the top of his tibia.
The near career-ending injury saw Regini-Moran learn to walk again and he is now back at the top level of the sport.
A junior champion at Olympic and European level, Regini-Moran is looking to take his skills to Tokyo and land himself some medals.
He won three golds at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing and has five European junior titles.
The artistic gymnast won bronze on the vault at the 2021 European Championships in Basel.
He joins Maidstone's James Hall in Team GB's gymnastics squad.
James Hall, Artistic Gymnastics, Maidstone
Gymnast James Hall moved to Maidstone from Australia when he was a toddler and has been a member at the town's Pegasus Gymnastics Club since he was seven.
Born in the Sydney suburb of Bankstown, Hall is regarded a consistent performer and was inspired by London 2012 star Kristian Thomas, whose understated role helped secure Britain's first gymnastics team medal for more than 100 years.
The 25-year-old has a reputation as a dependable and versatile performer in the England team and he won Commonwealth gold at the Gold Coast games in 2018.
The same year, he was in the GB team which won silver at the European Championships.
He is set to make his Olympic debut having reignited the competitive spark despite admitting feeling "directionless" during the lockdowns of last year.
Hall even has a bus named after him on the Arriva routes around Maidstone following his Commonwealth success.
Zoe Smith, Women's 59kg, Weightlifting, Dartford
The second of Kent's weightlifting women, Zoe Smith trains at the Europa gym in Dartford.
She is one of a host of Olympic and Commonwealth athletes from the gym coached by former British lifter Andrew Callard.
Smith joins Emily Muskett in Team GB, who she trains with at the centre in Temple Hill.
The 27-year-old is originally from Greenwich and holds four British records including one she achieved at the London 2012 Olympics in the clean and jerk of 121kg beating the previous record of 119kg.
Twice bronze medallist at the European Championships, Smith is a Commonwealth champion (Glasgow, 2014) and won silver and bronze on the Gold Coast in 2018 and Delhi in 2010 respectively.
Kate French, Modern Pentathlon, Meopham
Having competed at Rio 2016, Kate French is one of the only Kent athletes with Olympic experience.
She has been in top form during the 2021 season winning three international medals including gold at the World Cup and setting a women's world record in the fencing.
In 2015, French took European team gold alongside Samantha Murray and Freyja Prentice.
The 30-year-old from Meopham has gone from strength to strength in the sport – consisting of fencing, freestyle swimming, equestrian show jumping and a combined final event of pistol shooting and cross-country running.
She finished fifth in Rio but recently said her experiences five years ago has made her stronger and wiser to go further in Tokyo and is aiming to secure an Olympic medal.
Sara Parfett, Women's Eight, Rowing, Rochester
Rochester rower Sara Parfett is one of two rowers in the Team GB squad from Kent – along with Emily Craig.
She features in the women's eight boat and says her inspiration watching the likes of Sir Steve Redgrave at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney as a child has driven her career.
Originally competing as a swimmer, Parfett switched to rowing while studying at the University of Bath.
It's not been easy for the GB crew to reach Tokyo and had to go through a tricky requalifying process.
The 29-year-old won World Cup silver and bronze in the eights in 2017 and is now making her Olympic debut in Japan.
Tom Bosworth, 20km Race Walk, Athletics, Sevenoaks
Kent's second athletics representative, Tom Bosworth, is one of only three of the county's stars to have been to an Olympics before.
The 31-year-old is Britain's fastest walker across all distances from 3km to 20km and will be stepping out in the 20km race in Tokyo.
From Sevenoaks, Bosworth made up for the disappointment of qualifying for London 2012 by 19 seconds in Rio four years later.
He finished sixth and then topped off his games by getting engaged on Copacabana beach.
He has also represented Team GB at three World Championships and two European Championships and is a qualified trampoline coach and sports masseur.
Emily Lewis, K1 200m and 500m, Canoe Sprint, Tunbridge Wells
Born in Tunbridge Wells but now based in Malvern, Worcestershire, Emily Lewis will represent GB in the K1 sprint class in the canoe events.
She is set to take part in both the 200m and 500m distances.
Lewis has competed at three World Championships with a best finish of 4th in Milan in 2015 in the K4 500m race.
The 28-year-old has also raced in World Cups during her career.
Kent and the Olympic Games
Kent has never hosted any Olympic events but Brands Hatch race track near Swanley was home to the road cycling in the 2012 Paralympics.
But there are several stories and former athletes to have graced hallowed tracks around the world and the county has played roles in hosting the Games held in the UK in 1908, 1948 and, of course, 2012.
The county was at the centre of a minor controversy when the Olympic flame, carried from Olympia in Greece to head to the host city of London, arrived on Kent shores in 1948.
The event did not run as smoothly as dignitaries and organisers would have hoped...
In 1948, the main stadium was Wembley – known then as the Empire Stadium – and the torch arrived at Dover on board the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Bicester.
It was given into the care of the navy on the evening of July 28 following a service at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Brussels and then brought to Calais.
Some 50,000 people reportedly lined the Prince of Wales Pier and seafront in Dover when Bicester docked after sitting at anchor in the Channel overnight.
It was carried on to British and Kentish soil by a petty officer.
As Jane Hampton records in her book titled The Austerity Games, schoolgirl Janet Turner – who was in the crowd that day – said: "A few minutes past eight there was excitement in Dover.
"Chief Petty Officer Barnes met the destroyer and when he had only taken a few steps with the flame, it was blown out for the first time in its 2,000-mile journey across Europe.
"It was relit from a second torch carried from Greece in case of emergency."
Hampton notes there was "sleight of hand" involved in the incident which must have escaped the crowds' notice.
It was said to have involved a "cigarette lighter as the torch was handed to the Lord Lieutenant of Kent, who passed it to the mayor, who presented it to the next runner".
While the torch did not arrive without incident, the same can also be said for some of the teams competing in 1948.
In the case of the Hungarian athletes though, it was Kent which came to their rescue following a horror journey arriving in Britain.
Six hours after flying over their digs at Hendon School, north London, the team had finally arrived.
Their plane, due to land at Northolt airfield in early evening was redirected to Blackbush in Surrey and then to Manston Aerodrome where the plane finally touched down at 10pm.
The Games' transport control team had been notified of the Hungarians impending arrival at Northolt and dispatched buses to collect them.
When they turned up 80 miles away at Manston, the East Kent Road Car Company in Herne Bay was scrambled in an emergency to pick up the weary team following their long journey.
About two-and-a-half hours later the team finally arrived at Hendon School.
A 17-year-old apprentice at a Kent company made her one and only appearance at the Games in 1948.
Lorna Lee-Price worked at the former Crystalate Company near Tonbridge, which made gramaphone records.
The long-jumper, originally from Wycombe, recalled how the company had supported with training after she was selected for Great Britain at the London games.
Historian Jane Hampton quotes Lee-Price remembering how the firm had dug a "special jumping pit in the grounds" for her to practice in and gave her extra time off to compete.
She was also presented with an engraved gold watch when she was picked for the Olympics.
In a 2012 interview with the Evening Standard she said she had to overcome hurdles in society's thinking to compete at the games and it was the first time women competed in the long-jump event.
"Back then, running wasn’t seen as feminine - women weren’t even allowed to run in the 400 metres.
"I’d never done a long jump until I was 16. The gym mistress at Wycombe High School asked me to have a go so I ran up, took a jump and cleared the pit completely.
"The next year I was chosen to compete at the Olympic Games. When I opened the letter telling me, I froze. I couldn’t believe it, it was such a great honour.
"I was the baby of the athletics team: it was just a fortnight after my 17th birthday when the Olympic Games took place."
Her father bought a pair of customised spikes for £10 (£355 in today's money) which were made to measure.
She later spoke of her pride of receiving her GB uniform which she even wore to her sister's wedding.
It consisted of plain satin shorts, running vest which athletes had to sew on red, white and blue ribbons and the Union Flag by themselves.
At the following games, held in Helsinki in 1952, Maidstone runner Frank Sando hit the headlines after finishing fifth in the 10,000m race with only one shoe.
The Kent cross-country champion and former Maidstone Grammar schoolboy broke a host of records before joining the Olympic team in Finland including the Army record for the three-mile in 1951 which had previously stood for 23 years.
Nicknamed the Maidstone Mudlark, Sando was a medal contender for the Olympics but despite losing his shoe and completing the race with one bare foot put in an admirable performance.
He went on to win bronze at the European Championships in 1954 but never won an Olympic medal.
Sando died in October 2012 aged 81 and lived in Aylesford just a stone's throw from the town's paper mills where his athletics career kicked off.
Of course, no article about Kent and the Olympics would be complete with mention of the county's greatest Olympian of all time – Dame Kelly Holmes.
Her double gold at the Athens 2004 games in the 800m and 1,500m is remembered as one of the finest performances by any British athlete and the famous picture of shock and delight on her face as she crossed the finish line is up there with Mo Farah's epic win at London 2012.
Dame Kelly, who was born in Pembury and is from Hildenborough, also won 800m bronze at Sydney in 2000.
In 2012, several of the world's teams descended on Kent after the county was selected to host training camps for athletes.
Maidstone welcomed the small Nepalese team which consisted of just two runners, two swimmers and a shooter.
The Russian equestrian team found their home at stables in Sittingbourne while the Australian athletics team were based at Tonbridge School.
Judo squads for Ukraine and Belarus also trained at the Tonbridge Judo Club.
The Barbados and Papua New Guinea paralympic teams, Portugal's gymnastics and trampolining squad, gymnasts from Slovenia, Senegal's Olympic team and the British judo team all trained in Kent and Medway for 2012.